Leadership and Management

Define and describe leadership and management theories, research, and practices in order to analyze their own effectiveness as a leader and/or administrator of programs in higher education and community education.

In CCE 576 (Leadership and Management of Educational Programs), I conducted an organizational analysis for a July 2008 assignment that included an interview and report on an advocacy organization and confidential shelter for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault (Wilder, 2008). This paper offers several opportunities to explore connections between leadership and management theories and adult education, including the following quote:

My interview subject also told me about one of the trainings conducted for staff that seems to illustrate how interpersonal skills can be improved through training. The participants were asked to define various terms related to values, and it turned out that every participant had a different definition. The exercise dramatically facilitated an understanding that people interpret words and concepts differently, and led to an improved realization about the need to verify understandings and to make sure expectations were clear.

This reminds me of an observation by Smith (2008) about how “[i]nstructions that seem perfectly clear to you will be misinterpreted in surprising ways,” and the suggestion to welcome suggestions from students about course improvements, because “[s]tudents have a unique perspective on your course that you cannot match, no matter how many times you review your course.” (p. 97).

Whetten & Cameron (2007) describe misinterpretation of instructions as an “informational deficiency” that can lead to conflict, and state that “clarifying previous messages or obtaining additional information generally resolves the dispute” (p. 385). This perspective seems to support the suggestion by Weimer (2002) for responding to learner resistance, that “[t]he best solutions involve communication – a free exchange between and among everybody involved” (p. 157).

In a discussion of strategies for managers and HRD professionals, Gilley & Hoekstra (2003) emphasize the importance of genuine and sincere rapport based upon “unconditional positive regard” of employees, because this can create a climate where “employees feel free to express their opinions, ideas, beliefs, and attitudes” (p. 290). Gilley & Hoekstra (2003) suggest that rapport can be built through interactions that help discover the “unique personality, life experience, and professional path” of each employee, and assert “[l]eaders need to understand that strength lies in these individual differences, and that it is their responsibility to challenge employees to capitalize on their unique gifts” (p. 291).

In the CCE 576 paper, I reflect on organizational challenges reported by my interview subject in the context of concepts and strategies discussed by Whetten & Cameron (2007):

My interview subject noted that the organization needs people with insight, a high degree of integrity, motivation skills and well-developed communication skills, and she listed these qualities as a contrast to the necessary technical skills (such as a thorough understanding of the law) that she considered obtainable through training.  I’m not convinced that the qualities she seems to see as inborn and unresponsive to training are so out of reach for people who want to improve. For example, while emotional intelligence is treated as somewhat distinct from interpersonal skills by Whetten & Cameron (2007, p. 65), it is clear that improvements in emotional intelligence can foster improved interpersonal skills, particularly in the areas of emotional control and appropriate emotional responses (p. 65).  In addition, self-confidence can be improved (Whetten & Cameron, 2007, p. 451), insight can be developed (p. 200), motivation skills can be improved (pp. 335-357), and people can become more supportive in their communication (p. 247). (Wilder, 2008).

This perspective on learners reminds me of the authentic encouragement advocated by Weimer (2002), which is based “on a firm and absolute belief in students’ abilities to learn, figure things out, and develop into mature, autonomous learners” (pp. 158- 159). This approach is reflected in a variety of leadership and management theories (e.g. Harris & Cullen, 2008, p. 25, citing Bain, 2004), and seems important to keep in mind when assessing my own effectiveness as a leader and/or administrator in higher education and community education. The belief in the ability of students to learn acknowledges the responsibility of the instructor as a facilitator, as well as the responsibility of the instructor to monitor, encourage, and respond to the student learning experience.

References:

Gilley, J.W. & Hoekstra, E. (2003). Creating a Climate for Learning Transfer. In: Improving Learning Transfer in Organizations (Eds. Holton, E.F. & Baldwin, T.T.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Harris, M., & Cullen, R. (2008). Learner-centered Leadership: An Agenda for Action. Innovative Higher Education, 33:21-28

Smith, R.M. (2008). Conquering the Content: A Step-by-Step Guide to Online Course Design. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Weimer, M. (2002). Responding to Resistance. Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Whetten, D.A. & Cameron, K.S. (2007). Developing Management Skills (7th Ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall

Wilder, R. (2008). Organizational Analysis. Learning Document. Retrieved from https://learningdocument.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/organizational-analysis/

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